Who does George Stephanopoulos work for? ABC News or the Democratic Party? In a This Week Interview on Sunday, the former operative to Bill Clinton foisted the blame for the government shutdown on John Boehner and House Republicans. During the 13 minute interview, Stephanopoulos repeatedly started questions this way: "The Democrats say...The Democrats, including Senate Democrat Harry Reid, have said...But Mr. Speaker, [Obama] says...The President has pointed out..." Six times, the anchor began his query with an observation over what the Democrats "say" on this issue.
Rejecting the concept of Democratic responsibility, Stephanopoulos touted Majority Leader Reid, noting that he "has said he's more than willing to have a conference, more than willing to have a negotiation, but not under the threat of a government shutdown, not under the threat of a default." [See video below. MP3 audio here.] The anchor offered to mind read, lecturing of the shutdown: "But Mr. Speaker, this is clearly not what you want."
An irritated Stephanopoulos complained about GOP efforts to repeal ObamaCare: "The President has pointed out, it's the law of the land. It has been upheld by the Supreme Court. It was ratified in a presidential election."
Boehner told Stephanopoulos that a "clean" debt ceiling bill simply would not pass. As though he were negotiating for the Democrats, the anchor probed, "Under no circumstances?...So under no circumstances will you pass a clean debt limit?"
After endless questions about what Democrats "say," the host did offer a quote from a Republican, Congressman Devin Nunes of California. However, this was simply another effort to undermine conservative opposition:
STEPHANOPOULOS: Even some of your own members are saying this is not your strategy. One of your colleagues, Republican Congressman Devin Nunes of California, was asked, "what is the House strategy right now?" He said, "listen, you really have to call Cruz, Senator Ted Cruz. I'm not even joking about that. He is the one that set up the strategy." Even one of your own colleagues is saying this is not your strategy, Speaker Boehner. It's the strategy of Senator Ted Cruz and other House conservatives.
In contrast, on September 30, 2013, Stephanopoulos delivered a ten minute interview with his former boss, Bill Clinton. The host skipped touchy issues like scandal at the Clinton Global Initiative and the terrorist attack in Benghazi.
In a follow-up This Week interview on Sunday, Stephanopoulos talked to Democratic Senator Chuck Schumer. He offered only one gentle question about Democratic negotiating and did not repeatedly press Schumer about Republicans "say."
A partial transcript is below. See MRC.org for a full transcript.
GEORGE STEPHANOPOULOS: We're now in day six of the government shutdown, as you know. And Democrats have been saying that you are the man, you are the one man in Washington who has the power to reopen the government. All you have to do is schedule a vote for a clean government funding resolution. Will you do that?
BOEHNER: George, the House has passed four bills to keep the government open and to provide fairness to the American people under Obamacare. And even after the Senate has rejected -- they've rejected all four of them. And even after the four rejections, we asked to sit down with the Senate and have a conversation. They said, no. Listen, Obamacare is a law that's going to raise the cost of health insurance premiums and make it almost impossible for employers to hire new people. It's a law the American people do not want and cannot afford.
STEPHANOPOULOS: It's also the law of the land, as you've said on many occasions. It's also you've tried many, many times to defund it. It's simply not working. So, I guess the answer to my question is--
BOEHNER: But why wouldn't the president provide fairness to the American people? Giving exemptions and waivers to all kinds of groups and people, but he hasn't given one to the American people, who are going to suffer under this law.
STEPHANOPOULOS: He has not, perhaps, but I take it from your answer that you're not prepared to schedule a clean bill on government funding.
BOEHNER: There are not the votes in the House to pass a clean CR.
STEPHANOPOULOS: Are you sure that's true? The Democrats say they have 195 Democrats who have already signed a letter saying that they would vote it. 21 Republicans, 21 House Republicans have said they are for it, as well. And Democrats are confident, you add those Republicans to the Democrats, a few more would come along and they have the votes.
BOEHNER: The American people expect in Washington, when we have a crisis like this, that the leaders will sit down and have a conversation. I told my members the other day, there may be a back room somewhere, but there's nobody in it. We're interested in having a conversation about how we open the government and how we begin to pay our bills. But it begins with a simple conversation.
STEPHANOPOULOS: Well, you had a conversation at the White House. The Democrats, including Senate Democrat Harry Reid, has said he's more than willing to have a conference, more than willing to have a negotiation, but not under the threat of a government shutdown, not under the threat of a default.
BOEHNER: So it's my way or the highway. That's what he's saying. Complete surrender and then we'll talk to you.
STEPHANOPOULOS: That's not--
BOEHNER: It's about having a conversation. I gave the Senate majority leader some advice at the White House about how to proceed. I gave him some advice over a week ago about how to avert this. And yet they refuse to do it.
STEPHANOPOULOS: But Mr. Speaker, he says -- and he said it publicly on many occasions, that you came to him back in July and offered to pass a clean government funding resolution, no Obamacare amendments, that was $70 billion below what the Senate wanted. They accepted it. And now, you've reneged on that offer.
BOEHNER: No, clearly there was a conversation about doing this.
STEPHANOPOULOS: Several conversations.
BOEHNER: Several. But--
STEPHANOPOULOS: And you offered a clean resolution.
BOEHNER: But I and my members decided the threat of Obamacare and what was happening was so important that it was time for us to take a stand. And we took a stand.
STEPHANOPOULOS: Did you decide it or was it decided for you?
BOEHNER: I, working with my members, decided to do this in a unified way. George, I have 233 Republicans in the House. And you've never seen a more dedicated group of people who are thoroughly concerned about the future of our country. They believe that Obamacare, all these regulations coming out of the administration, are threatening the future for our kids and our grandkids. It is time for us to stand and fight.
STEPHANOPOULOS: But Mr. Speaker, this is clearly not what you want. I want to go back to several points you've made about this over the last few -- here you were right after the election with Diane Sawyer.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BOEHNER: It's pretty clear that the president was re-elected. Obamacare is the law of the land. f we were to put Obamacare into the CR and send it over to the Senate, we were risking shutting down the government. That is not our goal.
STEPHANOPOULOS: So right there, you say that's not your goal. You don't want to put Obamacare on the CR. You did it.
BOEHNER: George, I have made it clear to my colleagues. I don't want to shut the government down. We voted to keep the government open.
STEPHANOPOULOS: You also said you didn't want to put Obamacare on the CR.
BOEHNER: But providing -- providing fairness to the American people, under Obamacare, is -- all we're asking for. My goodness. They give big businesses a waiver. They give all these unions a waiver. And yet they're forcing the American people to buy a product, buy a product that they do not want and cannot afford.
STEPHANOPOULOS: It is -- the President has pointed out, it's the law of the land. It has been upheld by the Supreme Court. It was ratified in a presidential election. And perhaps more important to the moment right now, you have tried this several times, it hasn't worked. So, there's no change in your position?
BOEHNER: Absolutely not. It's time for us to sit down and have a conversation. That's what the American people expect. That's what I've offered for the last ten days. Let's sit down and have a conversation. You know, we've had conversations before. Why can't we have one here?